Saturday, February 23, 2013


Ah, Minions... you weirdos...

The event at the Imagine Festival in London went very well, as I thought it would. It was the second time I was on stage talking about the movies that had influenced the books— the first time was last year, at the Mountains to the Sea Festival in Dublin.

The place was packed out and the response was fantastic. Afterwards I signed for about three hours, seeing a lot of familiar (worryingly familiar) faces in the queue... It was all so much fun, and I want to thank everyone who turned up.

For those of you who couldn't make it, here are the trailers we showed... and here are the trailers— because of age restrictions— we COULDN'T show...

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The whole Indiana Jones series has been a huge inspiration to me (except perhaps the fourth film.. ahem...) in terms of sheer fun and adventure and character. Jones is a perfect hero because, bizarrely, he rarely succeeds... Look at the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and count how many times he messes up. He loses the idol, he loses Marian, he loses the Ark, he loses Marian (again), his bluff is called, he's captured... The guy never wins. But he NEVER gives up. And that's what makes him a hero.

I said none of this to Steven Spielberg when I met him, of course. I just started grinning.

But for the first book, this is exactly the kind of vibe I was going for. Fun, fantastic, and faintly frightening.

Another film that influenced the first book, and the series as a whole, is this one...

Big Trouble in Little China was a film that confused the hell out of me when I first saw it as a kid. I saw Kurt Russell and thought, okay, here we have the big strong American hero who has all the tough guy lines... and then he proceeds to bumble his way through the entire film. This is a guy who fights the bad guys at the end, totally unaware that he has lipstick smeared over his mouth.

It was only when I saw it again, years later, that I got the joke and I realised just how fantastic this film really is.

Playing With Fire is my monster movie. The Grotesquery, made up of parts of so many other creatures, is my Frankenstein's monster.

Every Saturday night I'd stay up after my folks had gone to bed, and I'd watch the old black and white Universal horrors, all the stuff from RKO... I don't know why I loved horror movies from such a young age, don't know what it was about me that responded so well, but I ABSORBED these things.

The Faceless Ones, I always say, is my whodunnit- it's my mystery book. Batu, after all, is the man behind the scenes, pulling all the strings. But this is also the first time we see the Faceless Ones themselves, which were inspired by the Cthulu stories by HP Lovecraft. The wonderful Hellboy comic is inspired by Lovecraft also, as you can see in the trailer for the movie adaptation...

(Oh, and also? Hellboy 2? They KIND of stole something from Skulduggery. Check out the poster and see if anything seems... familiar...)

(Ahem. Moving on...)

Dark Days is my revenge flick. You can't beat a good revenge flick, you really can't, and I jammed so much into this book. We have Tanith torture, we have Moloch and his vampires, we have Scapegrace becoming a zombie, we have the first real mention of Darquesse (even though she'd been in my plans from the very start) and we have the chapter entitled "Mid-Afternoon of the Dead".

Now, I could show the trailer to Night of the Living Dead, or Dawn of the Dead, or Day of the Dead, or the first two Evil Dead movies... but instead I'll show the trailer to Army of Darkness, the third Evil Dead film by Sam Raimi, and one of my favourite movies of all time...

Mortal Coil is my Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It's my The Thing. It's the book where the Remnants run wild, and you can't trust the people you know, because they may not be the people you know anymore... Behold the glory of the hairstyles of the 1970s, and one of the most terrifying films I'd ever seen...

The Thing is the second John Carpenter/Kurt Russell film on my list, and it's here because it deserves to be. A masterclass in tension. If you're old enough, watch it... and watch it ALONE.

And in the chapter "By The Sword", we get one of my many nods to wonderful movies such as The Princess Bride. This one is pretty blatant. See if you can spot it in the middle of this, one of the greatest sword fights ever put onto celluloid...

Death Bringer is my superhero story. Between this and KOTW, the whole secret identity thing really starts to become a major issue, and this is the first book where we have a fight between two people who are powerful enough to punch each other through buildings... just like in Superman 2...

And this is also the book where Val gets attacked by that guy in her house. For me, this is the book where I switched from "realistic martial arts" to "realistic fighting", both in my writing and my own training. Take a look at my darling Gina Carano in Haywire...

And now we arrive at Kingdom of the Wicked, my science fiction story, where we have unsuspecting teenagers suddenly gifted with amazing powers, and we watch as it corrupts them. For this, Akira was a huge influence.

And it was also an influence on Chronicle, the trailer we showed at the festival. I THOROUGHLY recommend this movie.

And because it was science fiction, I felt completely justified in slipping in a nod to a certain Doctor...

We ALSO have a werewolf scene, which I did my best to link to the transformation in An American Werewolf in London. I'm not going to show that clip here, because it contains some brief nudity, but if one or two of you were to search for it, you would find that changing into a werewolf is a lot more painful than it appears in Twilight...

And SPEAKING of Twilight, how could I forget the debt I owe it for certain aspects of Death Bringer? So here we are, the trailer. Oh, be warned- one case of swearing at the very beginning.

And to top it all off, a massive influence on my writing...

And now I'm going to watch Ronda Rousey defend her UFC title against Liz Carmouche, in the FIRST women's event the UFC has ever held. In Ronda's own words, it is on like Donkey Kong...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Up For Air

84,726 words.

And that's the PLOT written.

Now I go back to the very start and write the STORY. The story is different from the plot. The plot is everything that has to happen at certain points— the plot is the writer inflicting his will on the book. The story, however, is how we get to the plot. The story is what drives the characters forward. The story is what captivates US, the reader.

Naturally, there's a whole heap of overlap between the two. A lot of the time, plot is story and story is plot. But not ALL the time. And for this one, the war book, I needed to get the plot hammered into shape before I start to lather on the story.

Now I get to spend time with Val and her family. Now I get to write about Scapegrace and Thrasher. Now I get to have fun and make jokes.

If there's one thing I don't want, is to have a less-funny Skulduggery book. I like it when they're funny. The danger, as Val gets older and the books get darker, is that they lose their humour. I haven't read the first few books in a while, but I'd imagine there are a lot more jokes per page in the early ones than the later ones. I expected this, but there is still a certain ratio I have to keep. Even though you Minions respond to the emotional beats of these stories as they get more mature, no one is really wishing for a joke-free book, are they? Where's the fun in that? So now I go back and make sure that no matter how grim things get (and they DO get grim) or how dire the situation becomes (and it DOES become dire), we have enough jokes and laughing-in-the-face-of-death to see us through the darkness and out the other side.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Curse of Kings

It took me ages to get into fantasy books.

For most of my life, I had no interest. I didn't want to read about some made-up place that never existed and people running around with swords and elves and trolls and dragons and whatnot. I wanted stories set in reality, in the modern day. Fantasy films were fine, but I only had to spend two hours watching those. Reading a fantasy book was altogether different.

I never read The Lord Of The Rings. My brother did, and whenever he spoke about it I could sense the frustration in his voice whenever he talked about the endless songs and silliness. I liked the movies, of course. Well, I liked the parts in the movies where they focussed on the humans. Hobbits I could do without.

And then I read a review of a book called The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. The review said this book had blistering action and fascinating characters and the whole thing was held together by acerbic wit. And that was the thing. Wit. Humour. For me, fantasy books just seemed so incredibly po-faced, like they took themselves way too seriously.

So I picked up The Blade Itself, and I loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved every single thing about this book and it was fantasy, so I asked myself— what else have I been missing out on? And the series that was recommended by quite simply everyone was George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice— which later became known as the Game of Thrones books, thanks to the TV show. So I read that, and I loved it. I read the next one and the next one and the next one. I loved them all.

All this is a (very) roundabout way of introducing Curse of Kings, by Alex Barclay.

Alex is a friend of mine. She's a crime writer by day, and has recently become a fantasy author by night. I love her crime novels. I never know what the hell is going on until the final few pages, and I am technically in love with her main character, Ren Bryce. Ren Bryce is the most awesome woman in the world, and I don't care that she doesn't actually exist. She exists for me, and that's what matters.

Alex's crime novels are thoroughly modern and laced with one-liners and sarcastic asides, so when she told me she was writing a fantasy novel for younger readers, I was thrilled.

(Unless she's reading this blog. If you're reading this, Alex, I wasn't thrilled. I was the opposite of thrilled. I was un-thrilled. I was de-thrilled. It takes a lot more than YOU to thrill ME ands that's no mistake. Damn right. Darn tootin'. I'm going to stop talking about this now. Hell yeah.)

Curse of Kings has it all. It has kingdoms and heroes and villains and secrets and mysteries and swords and killing and monsters and monsters and monsters. Did I mention it has monsters? It does. Lots of them. And they're all... weird. Oh, and the book also has lamprey eels. Do yourself a favour. Search Google Images for lamprey eels. Go on, I'll wait. Just type it in and take a look... go on...

Yes. There are things THAT disgusting in real life.

I'm not going to go into detail about the Big Mystery in Curse of Kings, because even mentioning what the mystery hinges on could spoil it for you, and I wouldn't want to do that. Hopefully it'll take you as much by surprise as it did me.

And if all that doesn't convince you, take a look at  one of the coolest book trailers I've seen in a long time. And pay attention to the man whose quote they use on the cover. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about.